Author: Jamie Bainbridge-Wood
Marshal was a photographer, an anachronist and a killer. Before we met, he hadn’t bothered to iCap any of the women he had finished with: he used an old camera, the print kind. That’s a throwaway fact- an affectation- for someone who isn’t a killer. In Marshal’s case, it got him caught and they stuck Marshal with me. Marshal behaves himself now.
It’s a rugged neighbourhood: neon-light reflections dancing hopscotch across a thick flow of rainwater, dense streams set to drown the whole borough, reshaping it into a grimy, low-rent Venice. Marshal’s body has its knuckles gripped white around the little moped they rented out to us. His mind snaps at me as we drive and I keep an eye on it but I don’t feed it.
The waypoint is up ahead, silky purple blur vibrating at one extremity of our vision. I get Marshal to pull his head around, get us oriented, and he doesn’t like it.
They used to lock people like Marshal up, or kill them, and now they use them for this. They think it’s punishment. For the most part, it is. People like Marshal, they like to dominate. An arrangement like this is their worst nightmare.
Still, I’ve been with Marshal long enough and I know: there are certain parts he likes well enough.
Marshal used to have a buddy- Lucas Roiland- and my mind, what used to be Marshal’s mind, drifts to him as we take the right off Copeland and onto Main. Marshal was the worst of the two, really. Lucas? He just didn’t have his head together.
Marshal exploited that.
We glide into the waypoint and the vibration stops: out front of the Oakland, that big Gothic facade grinning chipped-teeth from the lower row of windows, halogen glare in the interiors draped by heavy, dark blinds. They’re like coffins, those rooms.
The receptionist, a kid, nods at us as we blow through.
We hit the elevator.
We hammer on the door of Room 304, the one with the peeling paint and the expectant silence on the other side.
Silence conjures visions:
Carver, perched in the high-backed chair management provided as a cursory nod to the virtues of good posture.
Carver, easing his way out the chair, toting some screamer rented from a skinny kid with a quick mouth and hard eyes.
I keep an ear out for the footsteps, the sound of metal touching wood, and there’s nothing. I give it a second, two, for him to respond, then I do it the other way: crank back in the corridor, plant a boot at the lock. Splinters, then: Carver, a black-etched simian outline fleeing toward an open window. The piece has enough anaesthetic to sleep Carver permanently. I dial it back. Shoot from the hip.
Carver breaks a table as he goes down.
Into the room.
I take a look around in the dark. There’s enough here to make sure Carver ends up the same as Marshal: binds, tossed carelessly in the bathroom; tools, precisely ordered, placed obviously as prize possessions in the centre of the room.
It’s slap-dash. Looks the same way the developing room did, back when they caught us.
They’ll slave Carver, the same way they slaved Marshal, and they’ll put someone like Lucas Roiland in the driver’s seat.
I look down at Carver with something like pity. I know what the process will do to his mind. But then again, I know what he did, what Marshal did, and what I did.
I am all that’s left of Lucas Roiland.
It’ll be making amends forever.